Impersonation scams more than doubled in first half of 2021

·3-min read

Impersonation scam cases more than doubled in the first half of 2021 to 33,115, a finance industry trade association has said.

This led to criminals stealing £129.4 million through this type of fraud alone, according to UK Finance.

In the same period last year, there were 14,947 impersonation scam cases which led to £57.9 million being stolen.

UK Finance raised the alarm at the start of Take Five Week (September 13 to 17).

The campaign urges people to stop to think, challenge requests from people, and protect themselves, for example by telling their bank and the police immediately, when asked for their information or money.

Impersonation scams involve criminals posing as a trusted organisation such as a bank, the police, a Government department or a service provider.

They trick their victim into transferring money using a range of cover stories. These include claiming they need to protect an account from fraud, that a fine or tax needs to be paid, or that a refund sent by mistake must be returned.

Politeness can sometimes get in the way of people refusing to speak to fraudsters.

Research for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign found nearly a fifth (19%) of people feel uncomfortable saying no to a request for personal information from a stranger via email or text, rising to nearly a quarter (23%) when it comes to phone calls.

Nine in 10 (92%) people admit to saying yes sometimes because they do not want to appear rude.

Using other phrases to avoid saying no, such as “Let me think about it” or “I can’t at the moment”, can give criminals a way in.

Take Five fraud expert Tony Blake, said: “Criminals are experts at pretending to be someone they are not – and can fool even the savviest of people, who don’t want to seem rude.

“If someone contacts you unprompted and asks for personal or financial information, stop and take a moment to think – even if they claim to be from an organisation you trust. Only criminals will put pressure on you to act quickly.

“Remember, it’s OK to say no and contact the organisation through a route you know to be genuine.

“The banking and finance industry works to tackle fraud on every front, through investing millions in advanced technology and working closely with the Government and law enforcement to stop the criminal gangs responsible.”

Philip Robinson, retail fraud prevention director, Lloyds Bank said: “Fraudsters are sending phishing texts and emails to trick people into entering their banking details, then using them to get in touch and pretend to be their bank.

“It’s easy for scammers to put a fake logos to make you believe it’s a genuine organisation, so never ever click on links or fill in your banking and personal details – this is walking into a trap.

“Your bank or a genuine company will never ask you to move money to a different account and if anyone does, it’s definitely a scam no matter how genuine it may appear or what the caller is saying.

“Treat every email, message or call that you’re not expecting with caution. Step back and think what you are being asked before rushing into anything or talk to a friend or family member first, and pay close attention to any warnings that may appear when banking online.

“Fraudsters are ready to disappear as soon as they have your cash, and trying to make people panic about a so-called transaction or account being in danger is all part of the act.”